(Washington Examiner) – The Islamic State has expanded despite airstrikes, according to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A coalition against the terrorist group, led by the U.S., has not helped slow its advancement, he said in an interview with CBS News Sunday night.
“[I]f you want to talk in terms of ISIS, actually ISIS has expanded since the beginning of the strikes. […] Actually, no, you have more recruits. Some estimates that they have 1,000 recruits every month in Syria. And Iraq — they are expanding in Libya and many other al Qaeda affiliate organizations have announced their allegiance to ISIS,” he said.
Assad, who the Obama administration has consistently repeated has to be removed from power in order to see a conclusion to a four-year-long civil war that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, said he is “open” to negotiations with the U.S.
“We didn’t attack the American population. We didn’t support terrorists who did anything in the United States,” Assad insisted. “We always wanted to have good relation with the United States. We never thought in the other direction.”
“As principle, in Syria we could say that every dialogue is a positive thing, and we are going to be open to any dialogue with anyone, including the United States, regarding anything based on mutual respect,” Assad said, denying that the Syrian Army has any connection to the civilian casualties, adding any claims that it has used chemical weapons is “part of the malicious propaganda against Syria.